Charlie's Body Positive Yoga Teacher Training Fund

Hello Friends!

My name is Charlie Shipley, and whether you already know me or are meeting me here for the first time, I’m glad you have stopped by!  Today, I am asking for your support in sending me to the first-ever Body Positive Yoga 200-hour teacher training. If you already know my story and are most interested in the breakdown of what your donations will fund, I provide those numbers at the end, but for those of you who are learning this part of my story for the first time, I would love to share a bit about who I am and how I got here!  

Besides giving up dieting, finding my way to yoga was one of the first steps toward healing the trauma of non-acceptance I had stored in my body over the years.  My first encounter with the mat happened when I was in my second year of graduate school under a mountain of pressure to catch up on work that I had postponed due to the sudden death of my sister.  Because I was on the opposite side of the country from my family for the first time, I was always seeking opportunities to connect to the people in my academic circles, and a grad school colleague came into my life at that time who happened to be a yoga junkie in her own process of working toward a teaching certification.  We struck up a quick rapport around our working-class backgrounds, shared penchant for songwriting, and fish out of water feelings. Before long, every Tuesday night was yoga at Charlie’s house, a quiet place where a group of our friends could briefly forget the pressures of the week and find a sense of respite from our grinding responsibilities.  It also became a place where I could be real about the grief I was working through for the first time.  

I specifically remember us sharing a practice inspired by the techniques of yoga nidra (yogic sleep) that marked the first time that I had felt both entirely conscious and entirely at peace with my body.  Before this, I knew the idea of fat acceptance as an abstraction and as a political goal, but had not quite experienced the feeling in my body of acceptance for my own fat self.  I didn't know it at the time, but finding a way to document and convey that transition from abstract belief to assurance would become a central motivation in sharing my own images and words with the world!

Although I haven’t practiced continuously since those first experiences in grad school over a decade ago, when yoga came back into my life around 5 years ago and became an even bigger part of it than before, it felt like coming back home to a sense of peace with my body that I had forgotten in the time between.  I’m always in a state of self-inquiry about where my life’s path is headed, and even as someone with a fairly expansive sense of the possible, I'm embarrassed to admit that until the more recent foray into yoga practice, I never thought I would be cut out to be a yoga teacher simply because I’d never seen a fat yoga teacher before. Now I know this simply was a case of not having encountered fat representation, but it’s a sobering thing to remember and it’s something that through meeting the goal I set out here I’d like to have a part in changing for others in the future.  

A big part of working toward self-acceptance has been finding inspiring fat yogis and athletes online, and unlearning that sense of impostorship that comes from never seeing images of yourself reflected in certain spaces.  Instrumental in that process has been my encounter with the work of Amber Karnes, the founder of Body Positive Yoga.  In August of 2017, I was able to meet Amber for the first time in person.  Though I had long been a fan of her website and online presence from a distance, we had connected serendipitously over social media after she came across and shared one of my yoga selfies that I frequently posted in fat fitness communities, and I was humbled that someone I respected so much valued my contributions online.  So when she programmed a workshop less than a 2 hour drive away from my home, it was a no-brainer that I would make a point to be a part of it.

The weekend of this workshop was when my desire to teach yoga went from being something I considered in passing to something I considered a real potential path for me.  It was what an old friend of mine calls a “mountaintop experience” - one of those times when you escape the slog of the mundane just enough to have a moment of clarity. Between the times spent in workshop going over modifications to challenging poses, the recalibration of our approach to practice, and the one-on-one insights about the behind-the-scenes realities of what being a yoga teacher looks like, I became convinced of two things. First, I realized that so much of the residual negativity I had unconsciously internalized about my body in yoga studio spaces was about those studio spaces and not at all about my body.  Secondly, I realized the importance of having as many people working together to change the messaging about not only fat people in yoga practice spaces, but people representing many nodes of intersectional oppression - race, ability, sexuality/gender identity - who are are not only underrepresented in those spaces, but whose experiences are frequently omitted, denied or gaslit.

Even from my perspective that carries both privilege and marginalization, what I have learned from experience so far with my yoga practice is that there are so many people out there who have a place in this practice who have been convinced otherwise, whether it is by a gatekeeping fitness industry that has co-opted yoga for its own ends or by teachers who (often unknowingly) perpetuate cycles of harm that happen when yoga is treated as apolitical (or even more dangerously, as somehow outside or at a “higher vibrational level” than politics). After all, yoga is far more than just an exercise program, but as popular physical activities go, it’s one of the very few that has built into its ethos that your body is worthwhile and worthy of attention as it is rather than something to be ignored, overworked, or contorted uncomfortably.  This message, unfettered, is a deeply transgressive and anti-capitalist one when internalized thoroughly, and this training will provide practical ways for me to help facilitate that process of acceptance in others. 

...     

Currently, I am a manager in the hospitality industry in South Carolina, but I also make a point to stay plugged into my local community, whether that is being a founding member of the first ever Gay Men’s Chorus in the Columbia, SC area or participating in our local bowling league, the Rainbowlers.  I am also very passionate about fitness, especially fitness settings that allow you to set your own pace, and those that are explicitly welcoming to fat people without promoting weight loss imperatives. For a long time, the search for those spaces that accommodated my own needs was enough of a challenge, but in the absence of finding what I was looking for I have long wondered about what I myself can do to help create more of these spaces, not only for myself, but for others.

That’s why, when Amber decided to announce last fall that she would offer her Body Positive Yoga curriculum as a Yoga Alliance-registered 200-hour teacher training, I was extremely eager to apply.  We enthusiastically agreed that this was a logical next step for me, and she very generously agreed to give me time to raise funds via crowdsourcing. I felt crowdsourcing was my only responsible option because as someone with multiple student loan payments, a car payment, and a recent bout with car repairs that I had to charge to a credit card, it would be irresponsible to try to take any more debt on at this time.  At the same time, because Amber has said that this may only be a one-time offering, I thought I would regret it forever if I did not give sourcing the funds to cover the impact of this training a shot.

That’s where you come in.  If you’ve read this and want to help make this dream a reality for me, and only if you are in a place to do so without causing any hardship, I would be honored if you would consider supporting me in this journey.  I realize that this is quite a large ask, but please know that no amount is too small and I am confident that the success of this campaign will be built on small as well as larger donations. 

I hope you will understand that I ask for this help with every intention of paying it forward by way of abundant documentation of my own process leading up to and during the training.  I would like to think of everyone who helps out as a sort of family bidding me bon voyage, and I think showing what this process looks like will be a valuable resource and a way to keep up with someone you had a little faith in. Also, when I have finished my training, I am lucky in my current professional position to have access to space where I can offer classes and community offerings, so this could also be a way to pay this act of faith forward via free and pay-what-you-can classes.

I’m asking for $5,865 total.  What is covered already is $1,000 of the $3,900 tuition cost as well as lodging.  This leaves the breakdown as follows:

$2,900 for tuition
$820 for 5 round-trip Amtrak tickets from Columbia, SC to Richmond, VA
$186 for cost of books
$1,728 to offset time I would have to take off from work*
$231 to offset GoFundMe processing fees (2.9% + $0.30/transaction; amount an estimate based on reaching the goal in 200 donations)

Thank you so much for listening to my story, and I hope that this is just the story’s beginning!  With your help, that may just be possible!

*I do have a limited amount of paid vacation time, but for now I am treating as my goal an outcome where I am able to keep that time set aside for an emergency rather than having to zero it out to make this possible.
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 21 mos
  • joseph pascale 
    • $50 
    • 21 mos
  • Stacey Shulman 
    • $20 
    • 21 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 21 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 21 mos
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Organizer

Charlie Shipley 
Organizer
Chapin, SC
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